Toasted Skin Syndrome Is Real & Your Laptop Might Be The Culprit
I work from home — you know what that means. A laptop is almost always reclining on my thighs — with me sloughed against a pillow for hours on end. Harmless — except for the fact that my back is almost always reeling from pain by the end of the week. Still. Harmless.
Cut to last week. It was a Friday evening, and I was concluding my last story for the day. Think of how surprised I was when I read an article that suggested what I was doing was harmful: the whole ‘balancing a laptop on my thighs’ scenario. That it could actually hurt my skin.
How? Enter Toasted Skin Syndrome. Yeah — doesn’t sound very appetising. But I have a lot of questions swirling around in my head even now. I’ve roped in three experts to explain this unheard-of condition to me simply: Dr. Alekya Singapore, Dermatologist & Cosmetologist, Founder, The Skin Sensé, Skin & Hair Clinics, Dr. Sonia Tekchandani, Celebrity Dermatologist and Founder of Tender Skin International, and Dr Priyanka Reddy, Founder & Chief Dermatologist, DNA Skin Clinic. Let’s see if these claims have any truth to them — and if I’ve got to change my habits at all.
If You Use Your Laptop Every Day, You’re At Risk…
What Is Toasted Skin Syndrome?
The experts explain to me that this condition is also referred to as Erythema. It occurs when you over-expose your skin to low (or moderate) levels of heat. They agree that this level of heat doesn’t burn the skin (usually ranging from 43° to 47° degrees) — but leaves behind a rash of sorts, and irritates the skin. This rash appears as brown or red patches on the skin, and can be accompanied by tingling or itchiness.
What are some symptoms or manifestations of the condition?
Is Toasted Skin Syndrome dangerous at all? While much of my research suggests that the symptoms of the condition surface as a rash on the skin, there’s no specificity to this characteristic. What does the rash look like? How does it look difference from a normal patch of pigment on the surface of the skin? Dr. Priyanka comes to my aid, “This condition is characterised by a hyperpigmented, reticular rash that appears almost red-brown in colour. It has a net-like pattern with hazy-ish borders that’s localised to the area exposed to the heat. You might experience pain and tenderness for a couple of days depending on the severity of the condition.”
Dr. Sonia and Dr. Alekya further elaborate, “Some of the visible symptoms of toasted skin syndrome manifest as itching or prickling. People also experience (red) bumps on the skin. A lack of sweat on some of the patches is a sign you might have Toasted Skin Syndrome.
How does it develop? And are there specific sources that lead to the condition?
Because how does your laptop lead to this condition anyway? The experts break it down for me like this. Repeated exposure to low-grade heat is what triggers this condition. These temperatures do not burn the skin — but they do lead to changes in superficial blood vessels, collagen, elastin, and basal cells. They name a few factors responsible for this condition: heating pads for pain-relief, working with laptops on the lap, seat-heaters in the car, heaters in a room, and even ovens can trigger it.
How do you prevent it?
The experts leave me with a list of tips:
- Place your laptop on a table or pillow, and not directly on skin, and avoid using heat-pads repeatedly.
- Wear long, thick gloves while baking to protect the skin from exposure to direct heat.
- Avoid synthetic and tight-fitting clothing. Go for loose, cotton-based clothes instead.
- Keep heat sources like heater in your room a minimum of two feet away from the skin.
How do you treat it safely?
Does Toasted Skin Syndrome go away? Certainly. According to Dr. Alekya, “Removing heat-emitting sources like laptops and heaters are the best solution to treating this condition. Even the topical application of products as recommended by your dermatologist can help in curing this condition. Look for products that are calming, and contain antihistamines as they are effective in treating this. Sometimes — even in-clinic visits and sessions are required depending on the severity of the case.”
Dr. Sonia says that products containing hydrocortisone and antihistamines prove effective in treating this condition, and that some dermatologists can even recommend other methods if the condition has worsened.
Dr. Priyanka suggests identifying and removing the culprit immediately, “During the initial stages of the condition, inflammation is a commonly-seen symptom, and anti-inflammatory creams like hydrocortisone are administered to you for 4 to 5 days to reduce the inflammation. Skin-soothing moisturizers will be given to soothe the skin. Once the inflammation is taken care of, and the skin has completely healed, pigmentation can be addressed.
“Some commonly-used ingredients in treating pigmentation include hydroquinone, kojic acid, azelaic acid, arbutin, tranexamic acid in various combinations and percentages (depending on the severity). Even depigmenting chemical peels and Q-switched laser can be done to treat pigmentation. Without any treatment, the intensity of the pigmentation tends to reduce in a couple of months — but, in some cases, the pigmentation can persist, and become permanent,” she concludes.
Can it be treated at home, or does one need to consult a professional?
How do you treat Toasted Skin Syndrome at home? Dr. Priyanka is of the belief that a visit to a professional is non-negotiable. “This is not a condition that can be treated at home or by self-medication. It is highly advisable for you to consult a dermatologist for treatment.”
Dr. Alekya and Dr. Sonia, though, explain a couple of ways to soothe the rash at home. “If you are experiencing mild itching, applying a saline compression can relieve uneasiness. Try to keep the indoor temperature as cool as possible, and wear loose, cotton-based clothing to avoid triggering the situation even more. Applying Aloe Vera can work as an effective, temporary solution because of its soothing nature. But you must consult a dermatologist if you experience fever, chills, increased pain, or pus draining from the bumps.”
How do you treat the scars/pigmentation left behind by the burn/s?
Dr. Alekya says, “Over-the-counter skin-lightening creams can reduce scarring to an extent with. You’ll need a dermatologist’s prescription for the same. Since the sun causes pigmentation on the skin, always wear sunscreen — especially on those areas. Peels, lasers, and micro-needling are recommended for severe cases after consulting with a dermatologist.”
Are there any long term effects of this condition?
“This condition can lead to malignant changes in the skin. Long-term monitoring is important to detect Cancer at an early stage. Biopsy is recommended if there are findings like Telangiectasias ( superficial blood vessels). This is to rule out dysplasias,” says Dr. Priyanka.
Any ingredients to avoid using on such skin?
Dr. Priyanka asks us to avoid the long-term use of steroids and skin-lightening creams (triple combination creams) in this condition as they could further thin the skin, and cause more harm. Avoid using DIYs like lemon, Apple Cider Vinegar, and harsh scrubs in order to reduce the pigmentation in the affected area/s.”
Dr. Sonia and Dr. Alekya declare ingredients like aloe vera, kojic acid-based creams (on prescription from a dermatologist), and
saline compressions as safe to use on such skin.
Stay safe, everyone — even indoors.
Featured Image: Pexels